The first cocoa plants were imported from Brazil in 1822 and planted on the island of Príncipe. The first large plantation started production in 1852. The Diogo Vaz Roça, which Kennyson acquired in 2014, began operating in 1880. Until 1910, the Portuguese colony on São Tomé and Príncipe was the world’s largest cocoa producer with around 35,000 tons of high quality beans per year.
When São Tomé and Príncipe declared independence in 1975, the land was divided into small parcels and given to the workers, but without any state support. In the early 2000s, the island was producing less than 1,000 tons of cocoa a year, with little prospect for workers.
„Today’s consumers expect ever higher product quality, clear transparency in production and ethical responsibility towards employees.“Oliver Casenave (Winner „Best Dark Chocolate Bar“, 2016)
5000 kilometers separate Germany and two delicate islands off the west coast of Africa – São Tomé and Príncipe. But a delicious combination unites the two – masterful chocolate! In 2016, the French chocolatier Olivier Casenave won the “Best dark chocolate bar” award at the “Salon du chocolat”, the largest chocolate fair taking place in Paris, by telling the jury with his chocolate creation “75% São Tomé Diogo Vaz Amelonado “seduced.
This particular triumph shines brightly over the vision and hard work of the Kennyson Group, led by Jean-Rémy Martin and Eneko Hiriart.
This company, known for its role in rural development in Africa, decided to revive the cocoa business on São Tomé and Príncipe. Kennyson took over the management of the centuries-old plantation from Diogo Vaz in 2014. The plan was to optimally reforest a large variety of native plants in this unique landscape and at the same time to harmonize the social and economic status of the local farmers and employees.
The heart of our project is the essential, social aspect! ”Emphasizes Jean-Rémy Martin (founder). “We were inspired by our roots. In our home country France, end products have to support the local economy. In the chocolate industry, this principle is shockingly unbalanced. Cocoa is an essential product in Africa, but its price is set in Europe. The untreated cocoa bean is shipped to Europe and the USA, only there is chocolate made from it and most of it is consumed.
In Africa, cocoa production employs around 7 million people and most of them live in poverty. If we succeed in offering these workers adequate living conditions, we will have more than won our efforts. „
„We want to produce an extraordinary chocolate with a rich taste and high aromatic quality. We want to highlight the unique essence of our cocoa bean, just like in creating a great wine.“Jean-Rémy Martin (Founder)
„The project „Diogo Vaz“ was born out of the steadily increasing trend, which can be observed particularly in South and Central America, that consumers are demanding more and more product quality, transparency and ethical responsibility.“ Summarizes Olivier Casenave (now technical director by Diogo Vaz).
Thanks to the local team, which is excellently trained in chocolate and pastry craftsmanship, Diogo Vaz will experience his own chocolate factory in full operation on São Tomé in June 2019. From the bean to the table – everything is produced on site.
“We are able to completely control the entire process from the tree to the finished product. We know the origin of every single cocoa bean, we control their fermentation and drying, the roasting and the production of the chocolate, ”explains Eneko Hiriart (managing director).
Diogo Vaz produces high quality chocolate. The beans from the plantation are delivered directly to the local chocolate factory. A uniform purchase value can be retained. This in turn stabilizes and significantly improves the income and living conditions of the employees.
“We want to bring out the fundamental essence of quality chocolate. No daring mixes. We want to highlight the essence of our precious cocoa bean, as it ends in creating a great wine. “ – Jean-Rémy Martin.